Why should we care so much about our kids making friends? Because children with friends show many positive characteristics that continue into adulthood, including more of all of these traits than their friendless peers:
• Ability to take different perspectives
• Achievement and work-orientation
But what exactly are the social skills kids need to make friends? Good social skills are defined by an ability to interact appropriately and effectively with others. I’ve been exploring some specific skills for this series, and have already shared about how to coach kids on good communication skills and managing difficult emotions.
For this post, I researched emotional intelligence, which is defined as “the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.”(Wiki) Apparently, the term was coined just twenty years ago, in 1995, with the publication of the book Emotional Intelligence – Why it Can Matter More that IQ by Daniel Goleman. Although the research has been mixed about which type of intelligence (emotional or intellectual) leads to more job success, it’s clear that people with high emotional intelligence are good at relating to others.
Helping our kids develop their emotional intelligence is important to their relational success and therefore their happiness. For me, teaching my kids social skills –with emotional intelligence being a key part– is just as important as helping them learn to read, do math, or get a high SAT score. In fact, I think helping them develop their emotional intelligence is an even more important job as a parent than helping them with their academic achievements (insert gasp from the educational state testers and science fair judges).
There is so much good information about teaching different aspects of emotional intelligence, so I’ve compiled a resource list here with some links and brief descriptions about each. Perhaps the best place to start is assessing your child’s social skills, figuring out which skills need the most work, and focusing on coaching your child on those skills. If your child has many social skills deficits, don’t try to focus on all of them at once. That’s way too daunting for you and your child. Just pick one social skill and work on it for a month or two, then move on to the next skill!
What is Emotional Intelligence and How to Improve it?
Excellent, comprehensive article about emotional intelligence including characteristics and how to improve it.
Teaching Empathy: Evidence-Based Tips for Fostering Empathy in Children:
Ten tips for teaching empathy to your kids, including learning about other people’s perspectives, developing morals, and becoming helpful (and other good things) without the need for external reward.
Facial Expressions for Kids: Games to Decipher Emotion:
Games to help kids understand what different facial expressions mean. This is more for younger kids but can be used for older kids who aren’t good at reading facial expressions.
Teaching Your Child About Emotions:
This is geared towards teaching young kids about emotions, but it got me thinking that the same techniques can be used for older kids who are not clear on what emotion they’re feeling or seeing in others.
Communication is Key: 7 Strategies to Build Your Child’s Self Expression Skills
I especially liked the parts about teaching about personal space, idiomatic language, and the power of “please” and “thank you.”
Teaching Social Skills:
A great, simple outline of the steps to take to assess and teach social skills, including discussing the importance of social skills and teaching and practicing the skills. Includes a nice list of some very basic, specific skills, like “complimenting others.”
Top 10 Social Skills Kids Need to Succeed:
Research-based skills that are important for kids to have to be successful in the classroom, including listening to others, taking turns, and asking for help.
Effective Communication – Improving Your Social Skills
I really like this clearly written article that provides short quizzes about nonverbal, conversation, and assertiveness skills and helps you identify trouble spots. Provides tips for working on each area.
Social Skills Activities for Kids and Teenagers
Includes games and role play ideas for different ages. Scroll to the bottom for some good ideas for teens, including practicing active listening and interview skills!
Social Skills: Promoting Positive Behavior, Academic Success, and School Safety:
Provides a good list of overall areas of social skills and makes it easier to identify main social skills deficit areas: survival, interpersonal, problem-solving, and/or conflict resolution.
An amazing plethora of social skills topics and ideas. Can use to discuss and coach your child on very specific skills, like starting a conversation and tone of voice. I will be using this site a lot! Includes simple, free social skills assessment tools.
Please let me know if you come across other articles, books, or websites about kids’ friendships and social skills. I enjoy reading everything I can find related to parenting, kids’ friendships and social skills, and happiness, so let me know any of your favorite articles or books on these topics!
Enjoy your kids today!